Claremont Insider: Sunday Mailbag

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sunday Mailbag

A reader wrote in with some tips on how motorists ticketed by the Claremont Police Department for honking in support of anti-war protesters should deal with the citations. Like us, the reader didn't think using the First Amendment as a defense would get very far when it comes to Claremont:

Traffic court judges rubber-stamp everything that makes it into the courtroom -- traffic court is principally a revenue-production factory, and anyone walking in with constitutional arguments about freedom of speech is going to be cut off about three seconds into their comments. But I beat an illegal Claremont speeding ticket by paying $350 to a lawyer to file a demurrer -- it makes victory much more likely, and pays for itself in stable insurance premiums. A demurrer is a claim that even if you did what the police say you did, it wasn't illegal, so the matter shouldn't be before the court. The judge takes it up outside the regular traffic court session, and the city has to respond in writing and send a lawyer if they want to prevail. I went to Antonio Bestard, across the street from the courthouse. My bet is that these folks will lose without a lawyer, and win with a lawyer. FWIW.

Oh, and trying to get the city to agree to dismiss an unlawful citation? No. I still have a letter from what's-his-name, the last police chief (whose name I tended to forget even when he was still on the job), acknowledging that the citation I had received had been issued contrary to the provisions of the Vehicle Code. He suggested that I tell it to the judge. They don't give fine revenue back out of the kindness of their hearts. Hire a lawyer.

* * *

And Planning Commissioner Tom Lamb wrote in with his take on some housing developments in Claremont, including the Base Line Rd. affordable project. Lamb says he wouldn't have voted to approve two condo developments on Base Line if the information from the affordable housing Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and the USC School of Medicine study about the effects of freeway pollution on children living within 500 feet of housing had been available.

Lamb went on say that our interpretation of how policy decisions are made in Claremont didn't include the significant changes that have taken place since former Claremont City Manager Glenn Southard left town for the city of Indio.

Lamb says the commissions he has worked on (Planning and Traffic & Transportation) have been much more open to independence than that in the Southard days. We think that's a fair assessment, but would like to point out that some city commissions, most notably Human Services, continue to function as a political arm of the Claremont 400. Witness the full-page ad in support of the Base Line Rd. affordable housing project taken out in the Claremont Courier by the Human Services Commission and the Claremont League of Women Voters.

Also, Planning Commissioner Bob Tener was one of the Claremont 400 throwing his weight in along with Human Services Commissioner Andy Winnick in favor of the Base Line Rd. project.

Lamb also has an interesting proposal for the Padua Ave. Park site. Here is Lamb's letter (the name is used with his permission):

As a Planning Commissioner, I voted to approve the two recently permitted condominium complexes along Baseline Road. I did so partly because the initial study submitted by staff indicated no major environmental concerns. I do not fault staff for this, the Affordable Housing EIR and the USC study were not available to us at this time. Had the EIR been available, I know that I would have demanded an EIR for the other projects and I feel that the Commission as a whole would have as well.

In passing, each of these projects also include an Affordable Housing component in accordance with the City Code. 15% OF THE UNITS ARE DESIGNATED AS AFFORDABLE.

With regard to the Baseline Affordable Housing Project now under consideration, I am opposed to it principally because of the stigma placed on families who would reside there--it would be a "Project" rather than an integrated residential development. The other, and from my perspective, the most compelling argument against the development is the fact that the site is not a good one from a planning perspective.

Logically, the best site would be the Padua Park area. Perhaps dividing the 20+ acre site in two with half retained as a neighborhood park and the the other ten acres developed into an integrated residential development.

And, lastly, not all commissioners, in fact, I suspect less than you might believe are blindly following the party line. Since the departure of Glenn Southard I have seen a collective effort on the part of Commissioners, at least in the two Commissions of which I have been a part, to question the staff and to challenge their assumptions and recommendations in an effort to achieve the best for the City, rather than to accept everything as a fait accompli.

Tom Lamb